PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Getting fresh food that’s close to home is more popular these days through a subscription program called Community Supported Agriculture (CSA).
A local farmer who takes part in the CSA program, Michelle Week of Good Rain Farm in Gresham, showed KOIN 6 News how CSA’s are also connecting more people to nearby farms.
“I really wanted to start farming some of our first foods and really start reconnecting more deeply with my indigenous ancestry,” Week said.
She’s one of several farmers with land at Headwaters, a farm incubator that the East Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District owns.
For the second year in a row, business for Pacific Northwest CSA farms are up 200%.
“CSA’s are like Kickstarters, but for small farm businesses. So, you buy early in the season and we try to gather as much money as we can early in the season ’cause it was literally the money use to buy seeds, seed money,” Week explained.
“Then we use that to invest in other infrastructure or improvements that we need to keep the business and operation,” Week said
Like any startup, each harvest can be hard to predict but customers who have invested, count on the farmers to make the best decisions when they’re planning ahead.
“At the shortest length of time, it takes about 40 days for a food crop to come to harvest ready and up to 180 days. So, it really takes a long time for us to see the benefits of our investment in time and energy and money into that food,” Week said.
Then, the share of the money you put into the crops equals a tasty payout each week in your cut of the partnership.
“So, that’s how we pay our CSA members back after they’ve invested early on in the business, they receive boxes of food as it comes ready throughout the rest of the season,” Week said.
Since Week’s farm isn’t rural, she said it benefits people who want to live in a city, while having access to fresh farm food.
“It reduces my transportation cost to be located so nearby to the folks who receive our food. It also makes it that more fresh and nutritious,” Week said.
Food that Week won’t harvest until a day or two before a pickup.
“Being peri-urban is really helpful in that way. We are close to a lot of people, a lot of community, and we can get that food to them faster, cheaper, fresher than if we were super rural,” Week said.
Families in need can benefit from these farms too. The Pacific Northwest CSA Coalition said there’s a 600% increase in sales from people who pay with SNAP.
The coalition matches what the customers spend, up to $200, through what’s called the Double Up Food Bucks incentive program.
Currently, there are roughly 150 CSA farms that sell in Portland, and a few hundred of them throughout Oregon and Southwest Washington, the coalition said.